Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Jesus is the atonement for man’s sins: his waywardness from God’s likeness, his tendency to take advantage of others, his unwillingness to live peacefully with his neighbor, and sadly his propensity towards violence. Man is created in God’s image, creative and powerful, but sometimes his nature can be polar opposite to the God of mercy and love. During those times, rather than displaying goodness and grace, his actions and attitudes become negative and hurtful. Especially when he is unrestrained by any authorities or laws, he acts out unimaginable atrocities against others. No neighbor, friend, or relative can trust a person who is out to harm or to deceive. We find the story of mankind’s uncontrollable nature in every history book, war, and violent story. He will kill, rape, and hurt, sometimes for no other reason than he has the opportunity to do so. In the last century we saw German soldiers go through a number of European countries with killing and destruction on their minds. During this time, millions of Germans took advantage of noncombatants, torturing, killing, and raping them. When the Germans were forced to retreat to their own country by the Soviet army, the same thing happened, but not by the Germans, by the Russian army. This was a caldron of hate plus a time of great rejoicing for the victorious armies as they subjugated communities for their purposes. Not only Hitler and Stalin exuded evil, but their followers’ actions expressed the evil within them. God is love and God is full of mercy and grace, but the nature of man cannot be controlled by mercy and grace alone without salvation. In the Old Testament, we see God disciplining his people within the confines of their old nature, using the law as a guideline and imposing harsh judgments on them and their enemies. The sin nature must be eradicated for grace to operate in the human heart, and Jesus came to fulfill that mission. Some people discount Jesus’ mission by saying that humans are innately good with no need for such a sacrifice as the death of the only begotten Son. They besmirch the death of Jesus on the cross. So we must be reminded of the nature of mankind, in all continents, in all times. He is violent and will cause great harm if not controlled by authority and laws. During World War II up to 70 million people were killed. Women and children were not safe in that maelstrom if it came to their community. All people, no matter how old or how young, regardless of gender, were exposed to violence, sometimes perpetrated by their own neighbors. In Africa, in Rwandan and within surrounding countries, we saw the Tutsis slaughtered by the Hutus—millions of them hacked to death, burned, or hammered to death. Sectarian, ethnic evil motivates people to harm or to kill others. The Moslem Ottoman government set out to eliminate the Christian Armenians in the early part of the last century. Over a million Armenians were killed, raped, tortured, sometimes neighbor against neighbor. In Iraq, we have seen Shias killing Sunnis, Sunnis killing Shias, once again sometimes neighbors doing the evil deeds, even up to this day. Some people have estimated that multiple millions were killed in China by the Communists with betrayal in every community, on every block. Evil is alive and well in the world, even today in our civilized countries. People will get away with what they can. Laws and restraints have to be backed up by the police and authorities or wicked people will take advantage of even their own neighbors. Man is not basically good or trustworthy, even in the best of communities. No wonder Paul wrote, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) This negative evaluation of mankind makes people turn away, as a cat will jump off your lap if you stroke it the wrong way. Men and women do not want to be made to feel uncomfortable about their basic nature. But God sees us as we are, and He would not need a plan of redemption if we could talk ourselves and others out of our sinful nature. Jesus shed his precious blood in vain if man could reform himself and become worthy of God’s presence. No, only a new creation would bring goodness into the basic nature of man. God’s plan is permanent and perfect00. His Son cleansed souls, filling his newborn sons and daughters with his mercy, grace and love. Jesus Christ is the narrow gate that allows whosoever will to escape servitude to the evil one and to enter eternity with God.
Yes, Jesus alone is the gate! Any philosophy, ideology, religion, authority, and political persuasion that does not accept that truth of Jesus only as the gate to eternal life is a robber, a thief, a deceiver of all who listen to their lies. These attitudes, these positions of belief are contrary to God’s good news of redemption and freedom. Laws and regulations will not open the gate to God’s domain; only Jesus, who is the gate or The Way, can do that. Sheep know their master’s voice; they will not follow any other voice or device. No staff from a false shepherd can make them move, for their allegiance is to Jesus alone. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10) All others will not find real answers for their souls. They will not find life nor the fulness of life. The pastures they find themselves in will not satisfy their famished souls; no eternal answers for life will be there. Since the beginning of time, people have tried to feed their souls in different pastures. Some have existed on land with religious gurus or on property with a plethora of laws and regulations to satisfy their hunger for eternal life. Some have fed on epicurean ideas: eat, drink and be merry. Others exist on sparse landscapes, feeding themselves with the ideas of the stoics, forbidding themselves of thoughts of happiness, joy or the experiences of the luxuries of life. They love their barren pastures, the deprivation of their existence, for they hope eternal life will crop out of that lifestyle. However, any ideas or actions other than dependency on Christ are hopelessly lost. For those roads are broad and many follow them, but God’s plan that leads to life is narrow, and only a few find it. God is in the business of making children for his eternal household. No sin, no waywardness, no chink in the armor will be in the household of God, for He is eternal: the beginning and the end. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) This perpetual existence cannot have any imperfections in it; that is cancerous to God’s forever existence. There must be a perfect way to the eternal God, and that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He paid completely for any flaws in us. He not only paid the price, He eradicated our debt through his blood, shed for all. As far as the East is from the West is our cleansing of sin; we have been cleansed completely. But this freedom only comes through Jesus and the cross. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7) Jesus goes on in this passage and says He is in the Father and the Father is IN HIM. We who are alive IN CHRIST are alive IN THE FATHER, FOR WE ARE IN CHRIST, SO WE ARE ALL ONE. Who can imagine such a plan? The angels could not, for they were made for obedience, but we humans have experienced waywardness, but through faith IN CHRIST and his powers, we have become free to be as God is, holy and righteous in our souls.
What a wonderful plan of redemption! All of this plan was in God’s heart before the world was made. We who have experienced something other than God, sheep locked up in slavery as the children of Israel in Egypt, have been freed by the blood of Jesus, and have been baptized by the waters of the Red Sea. We have been freed to enter by the narrow gate. The Egyptians thought they would have the Jews as their possessions forever. The devil thinks he has people locked up forever, but the plan of God was for the Israelites to experience slavery for a while and then to escape bondage. We too have experienced slavery for a while, but God planned to deliver us to his household, to be one with him. The Israelites experienced the wilderness, with the Spirit’s guidance day and night. We too experience the wilderness, but this time because of the cleansing blood of the Son of God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in a holy place. The Israelites did not have this opportunity of complete deliverance. The Spirit was with them but not in them, for the blood of bulls and goats could never make the soul holy; only God can do that. They had to follow laws and regulations to please God, but we who are IN CHRIST are always pleasing to God because He cannot be displeased with himself. We have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As we read in the word, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10) The Way has come to us in bodily form: Jesus Christ. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Dear friends around this breakfast table, hear the Good News; rejoice that Christ has come to you, making you completely whole and satisfying to a righteous God. Your eternity is assured by the works of Jesus Christ in his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55) Trust in him fully, be free in the Lord in your life. Many pastures of goodness are open to you through and in the grace and mercy of God.